2010 Commencement Student Address
Good morning college administrators, faculty, staff, families, students, and my fellow classmates of 2010.
Over the past four years I've spent at Gwynedd I seem to have gathered a reputation for being everywhere all the time, so I thought it might be appropriate that I make every effort to try and be up here right now. I'm sure those of you who've come to know me over these years are those who are most surprised at my being here, and I can only say that you have no reason not to be. This address will probably be the most any of you will ever hear me speak, so I can only hope that what it contains is worth hearing. I'd like to think that these past four years of relative silence were just a buildup to this moment, a funneling of inspiration into this single speech. In that time hundreds of scrap pieces of paper containing quotes have made their way into my pockets, some of which I'd like to share with you today. However, I'm much better at writing down such quotes than I am at remembering to remove them from my pockets before they see the washing machine, so the inspiring quotes may be lacking, but hopefully the inspiration is not.
It's been said that who you are never changes, what you are never stops changing. Some might call this mere semantics, but I can't help thinking how different these two distinctions are, who we are versus what we are. Today what we are is teachers, nurses, businesspeople, social workers, and many other things. Who we are is distinctive Mercy graduates, people in whom compassion and caring have been cultivated since we stepped onto this campus years ago.
In thinking about this I was reminded of a story that I hope better shows the differences between who and what we are. As a child grows their parent tells them, all you need to be in life is a good person. Later on, this child goes to school and their teacher asks them what they want to be when they grow up. The child's reply – a good person. The teacher says, “no you didn't understand my question,” to which the young child replies with “no, you don't understand life.” Certainly this is not a conversation any of the educators graduating with me today will experience. They know that what you are, your profession, though it may be part of who you are, is not all there is to it. To be a good person takes parts of all the things we've learned over our years at Gwynedd-Mercy. It involves being a teacher, regardless of degree or certification. It makes everyone a nurse, someone who comforts and cares in times of need. It makes us all social workers, seeking solutions to the world's problems. These qualities that make good people were surely taught to us at Gwynedd-Mercy, both in and out of the classroom.
Certainly there's no thinking that who we are as we graduate from Gwynedd-Mercy is the same person that arrived here a few years ago. We've all had experiences that changed us, that shaped who we are, that put the mercy core values into us, making us into the distinctive Mercy graduates that stand before you today. It wasn't just a day, that service project during welcome weekend our freshmen year. Nor was it a single week, Mercy Week, dedicated to celebrating what makes us men and women of Mercy. It can't be confined to a single lecture, or class, not even a semester. But our inability to pinpoint it doesn't mean it's not there, it just makes it all the more pervasive. Being a part of our campus community is what has shaped us into who we are today.
The mercy values have been so entwined in us that we often forget that they are not only our own, but part of a greater community. Not a day has gone by in these years which mercy has not entered out thoughts. Maybe we just saw it on a t-shirt, a sign, maybe just a binder, but regardless of where it was, it's obvious that it was always around. Far beyond mercy being seen in this purely visual way, evidence has undoubtedly been given through its more concrete manifestations. The small acts of professors, students, and organizations on campus are far greater testaments to mercy than the largest sign we could possibly erect. Sure, we talk about Gwynedd rather than Gwynedd-Mercy, but besides saving our breath, it also tells us even more about the college. Mercy is not separate from Gwynedd, it is a part of it, something that doesn't necessarily need to be constantly verbalized in order to be present. The marks of our mercy education are not those recorded on our transcripts, they are those which have been counted by the lives we've touched, the things and people we've affected over our years. These things, not just because it's in our name, not because of a single day or class, are what contribute to making our education one of mercy.
B. F. Skinner once said that “education is what remains after what you've learned has been forgotten.” In adding to this I'd like to say that mercy education is the integration of humanity into education, such that what is learned is impossible to forget. Although some things we’ve learned throughout our classes here may fade away as facts and figures change with the time, one thing for which this can never occur is the mercy which has been such an integral part of our education. Mercy, the college's middle name will follow us wherever we go as we set out on our individual journeys of life that begin with today. Like many middle names, Mercy may not always be verbalized, but when times are tough it is one by which we are proud to be called by. So, fellow graduates of the class of 2010, go out into this world and take with you the Mercy that resides now in you, as it does with the college. As we leave campus today go out and show the world not only what you are, but who you are; distinguished mercy graduates. Congratulations and best of luck.